Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, J.K. Simmons
Plot: An ex-smuggler is forced to do one more job smuggling counterfeit bills to help his brother in-law pay off a gangster.
Review: Contraband is actually a remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and directed by Reykjavik's lead actor Baltasar Kormakur. I had never seen the original, but I can say that on the surface, Contraband is kinda like Gone In 60 Seconds, except that instead of seeing Nicolas Cage stealing cars to save his brother, we have Mark Wahlberg smuggling counterfeit money to save his brother in-law. In comparison, Contraband is a bit more dramatic and grittier in its execution, unlike the flashier Cage vehicle.
I have to hand it to Kormakur for doing a great job on nearly every aspect of Contraband. The film takes place in New Orleans, which is from what I can tell, a city full of blue collar workers trying to make a living. Kormakur is wise to focus his camera on the things that make the film stand out, like the shipyard, rundown neighborhoods, construction sites and nightlife at the bars, to capture the grittiness of the city. For music, he uses blues and jazz, which fits the city in question. He also paces the film well, it rarely drags as the story moves along, except for the final stretch, where I felt he took a bit too long to resolve things.
For the cast, we have Mark Wahlberg, who is a shoo-in for portraying blue collar type characters. His Chris Farraday is like combining The Italian Job's Charlie Croker and The Departed's Dignam: smart, capable and tough, and not afraid to cuss. He shares good rapport with Kate Beckinsale, who plays his wife Kate. Beckinsale plays the damsel in distress for the most part here, so no Underworld theatrics unfortunately. Ben Foster is Wahlberg's best friend Sebastian, and unlike his previous roles, he plays it more subtly this time around. Giovanni Ribisi plays the gangster Tim Briggs, and I liked his performance here. It's not a role he usually gets to play, so it was fun seeing him being the antagonist in this film.
Contraband does suffer from predictability however. There is a plot twist halfway through the film, which I saw coming long before it was revealed. The fate of one of the characters at the end was also predictable, but I suppose I can overlook that. These things, and the aforementioned draggy bit at the climax is all I have to complain about.
On the whole, Contraband is entertaining for the most part. It's not sublime or perfect, but it's worth at least one watch. (3.5/5)